Thursday, October 3, 2019
Who among us doesn't have a smart phone or computer, or even a tablet? They are not only ubiquitous, they are integral, and perhaps essential, to our daily lives. What happens when someone, due to cognitive impairments, is no longer able to use these devices? Kaiser Health News made that the subject of a recent article. The Delicate Issue Of Taking Away A Senior’s Smartphone describes the potential problems
Increasingly, families will encounter similar concerns as older adults become reliant on computers, cellphones and tablets: With cognitive impairment, these devices become difficult to use and, in some cases, problematic.
Computer skills may deteriorate even “before [older adults] misplace keys, forget names or display other more classic signs of early dementia,” Zorowitz wrote recently on a group email list for geriatricians. (He’s based in New York City and senior medical director for Optum Inc., a health services company.)
“Deciding whether to block their access to their bank accounts, stocks and other online resources may present the same ethical dilemmas as taking away their car keys.”
Consider that some folks stay in touch with family and friends through their digital lives. But also consider how scammers can use email to perpetrate a fraud. The article notes a difficulty in using these devices---a difficulty that did not previously exist--may be an indicator of cognitive issues signaling a need for a comprehensive exam of cognition. Family can be helpful, but still realize there are issues
[B]eware of appropriating someone’s passwords and using them to check email or online bank or brokerage accounts. “Without consent, it’s a federal crime to use an individual’s password to access their accounts,” said Catherine Seal, an elder-law attorney at Kirtland & Seal in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ideally, consent should be granted in writing.
The article notes that some with dementia lose interest in their devices, but that is not true for everyone-it depends on the type of cognitive impairment. "More difficult, often, are situations faced by people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which affects a person’s judgment, self-awareness and ability to assess risk." The article then profiles the experiences of a noted elder law attorney and friend of mine, whose husband as an FTD diagnosis. She shared the steps she takes to keep her husband safe online.
Read the entire article, especially the last part where personal experiences and tips are shared. It's an important topic-we all need to think about this and plan for the eventuality in case we need to give up our digital word.